I had always considered my oldest son, Francis, to have it “made”. With his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in Human Computer Interaction, he scored an amazing job with a computer company whose name I cannot mention due to a confidentiality clause. Despite his vision loss, he managed to find his own apartment and get settled in Silicon Valley, California until he met and married his lovely wife, Melissa, ten years ago. They purchased a respectable but extremely overpriced house and settled down to a nice existence. He worked his way up in the company to become a supervisor and then program manager, and in turn they provided a chauffeur to drive him to work so he no longer would not have to take the train or a bus. He and Melissa traveled regularly and even provided for Hubby and me to join them in a five-star resort in Hawaii for Thanksgiving week. They ate out regularly, went to the movies, and spent weekends at Lake Tahoe. Francis purchased a large sailboat which they enjoyed on San Francisco Bay. He had a great life!
My granddaughter, Izzy, was born eight years ago and the pace of their life hardly changed. As an infant, she traveled well, and as a toddler and young child, it enhanced their field of entertainment as they took her to parks and zoos and playgrounds. Hubby and I were blessed to be able to visit them and my camera is full of pictures of us on the Merry-go-round, at the beach, feeding the giraffes at the San Francisco Zoo, and squeezing our bodies into the tiny seats on the kiddie train. We visited the aquarium where she fed the dolphins and went to see Disney movies at the theater where I embarrassed everyone with my raucous laughter at the humorous banter of the characters.
My grandson, Sam, was born three years ago, on a stormy night. Melissa started to have difficulty with her labor and the baby’s heartrate started to drop before the obstetrician was able to make it to the hospital. Francis was petrified they were going to lose him, and when he was finally delivered, his condition was critical. In the blink of an eye, their lives changed forever.
The ironic thing was Francis has a hereditary condition, blindness due to optic nerve hypoplasia and albinism. Melissa has the hereditary condition of neurofibromatosis, but Sam was born free from those disorders. Instead, he suffered brain damage from the lack of oxygen during delivery.
Instead of lamenting their fate, these parents delved into the world of early intervention services and devoted themselves to Sam’s progress, all the while making sure that Izzy received attention and love. Due to the pandemic, my visits to California were limited. However, I have just returned from an inspiring week at their home.
Sam, who just started to walk at the age of two and a half, is a handsome boy, blonde hair and blue eyes, and an infectious smile when he is happy. Although he seems to understand a lot, his speech is almost unrecognizable, (with the exception of Mimi, which he could say plain as day, much to my delight!) He has a limited attention span and cannot yet play independently with any toys. He has a temper and has started throwing things…the food from his plate, his spoon, his cup of water, and so forth. He does not like to be confined to a highchair and will scream until he is let out and held. He also does not sleep for more than two hours at a time, ever. What this means is that throughout the night either Francis or Melissa must get up to attend to him.
During my visit, I spent some extra one-on-one time with my granddaughter, creating an individualized Build a Bear and going to the movies, activities which her parents have not been able to do with her. I also stayed with both grandkids so Francis and Melissa could go out together alone a few times, especially for their tenth wedding anniversary. They had not been out alone since before Sam’s birth, so it was a great treat for them. For me, not so much, as Sam screamed the entire time they were gone, even though I tried to be cuddly and reassuring. In caring for THEIR son, I was taking care of MY son.
Conversations with Francis were generally interrupted by the kids, but we did manage to get one heart to heart talk in there. I expected him to complain about how his life had changed, but he did not. He was happy at work, albeit often tired because he had been up at night with Sam. His love for Melissa was reinforced by how good she was with their children. They found activities they could do with both youngsters without much fuss, such as sailing in the bay, which was calming for Sam, and playing on a secluded beach where his squealing would not annoy others. Francis is not bothered by Sam’s wailing, or throwing things, or waking up in the middle of the night. He loves his son wholeheartedly and reminded me that the alternative would be worse had Sam not survived the birth in the first place. Yes, Francis’ life had changed, but he smiled a weary smile and confirmed that he still had a great life.
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